This was originally going to be a post about the positive aspects of The 100 and why it’s such a revolutionary show, and while I still think parts of it are great, something happened during this week’s episode that really messed stuff up for a lot of fans, particularly fans in the LGBT+ community. So I thought it would be interesting to post what I’d written for the original post, and then compare that to how I feel now after the new episode.
Okay, so here is the material I had originally written, intended to praise the show and its amazing approach to queer characters and LGBT+ representation.
So the first notable thing I want to talk about is the show’s approach to sexual orientation and relationships. Now, obviously The 100 isn’t the first show to have queer characters – but while shows like Glee and Faking It have included bisexual characters in their respective repertoires, the portrayal of these characters hasn’t always been respectful, and often panders to the harmful and inaccurate stereotypes that people apply to bisexuals. The 100, on the other hand, does an outstanding job of not only incorporating queer characters into the show in a natural and organic way, but does so in a way that paints them as simply what they are: human. Not only is The 100 the first show to have a canon bisexual female lead in the form of Clarke Griffin, it is made even better by the fact that it doesn’t exploit this or use Clarke’s sexuality as her defining characteristic; she is bisexual as much as she is blonde, as much as she is brave, and as much as she is adorable. Her sexual orientation is treated simply as a part of herself, as opposed to being treated as the only part of herself, and that is such a refreshing thing to see.
We then also have Lexa, the young leader of the Grounders, who is canonically a lesbian and ends up becoming romantically involved with Clarke. This is again phenomenal, as we now have two canon queer ladies being badass leaders, and along with being exciting, it has proven to be a very important thing for young LGBT+ people – not only are they being given excellent representation for sexuality, but they also get to see two queer characters having a healthy and normalised relationship. There aren’t any of the tropes you see in a lot of media – no queer-baiting, no death, no uncertainty within the relationship because they are both women. Their genders are irrelevant in their love for one another, and that in itself has inspired so many people to come out and be themselves and to love who they are, because, to quote Clarke Griffin herself: “Maybe life should be about more than just surviving. Don’t we deserve better than that?”
Okay, so that’s where I got to with the post BEFORE I watched the new episode. Now, here’s when things are going to get rough. I really don’t like being negative about things, but boy oh boy, do I have some negative things to say now. [Warning; spoilers ahead]
Alright, here we go. One thing I emphasised a lot in the original post was the show’s refreshing attitude towards abolishing queer tropes, namely queer-baiting and the ‘lesbian death’ trope. Up until now, the writers had made it clear that Clarke and Lexa were an official thing, and that if fans stuck around then we’d be rewarded with something great. Well, we were rewarded with something alright – Lexa’s death.
Yes, while the writers were tweeting words of encouragement about how Clexa were going to make it and how we shouldn’t lose hope and we should just keep watching and “wait and see”, they were also very much aware that they were going to kill off one of the show’s most beloved characters. By luring us in and giving us false hope, they boosted their ratings, gained many new fans and admirers, and received praise from a lot of people about how “progressive” they were – and none of us had any idea what they really had planned.
I think a lot of fans agree with me when I say that I feel betrayed. I feel let down by the writers, because they let me believe that, for the first time in a long time, the queer characters weren’t going to be stepped on. We thought our ‘ship’ wasn’t going to be pushed aside to make room for a heterosexual pairing, wasn’t going to be used to boost ratings, wasn’t going to be exploited for the ‘shock factor’. We put our trust and faith in this show and its writers to treat us right, by not only giving us two amazing queer characters, but by then having these characters be romantically involved, and ultimately, happy. After Tara Maclay, Maya St. Germain, Naomi Campbell, Dana Fairbanks, Delphine Cormier – we thought this time, things would be different. But we were wrong. After a season and a half of romantic build-up, sexual tension, arguments, make-ups, ‘maybes’ and ‘almosts’, we were given the thing we craved most – two beautiful, strong women, unashamedly in love with each other and willing to work together to save the world – only to have it all ripped out from under us.
I think one of the things I’m most disgusted about is where they placed Lexa’s death scene. So this episode includes a scene where Clarke and Lexa sleep together for the first time and are allowed a few minutes of genuine bliss during some rare alone time, and not five minutes later, Lexa is dying in Clarke’s arms. The message that sends is, “Queer girls may be happy for a little while, but it never lasts.” And that is a very harmful message to send out, as was proven the next day via social media. The backlash from this episode was staggering, not to mention upsetting. So many people had invested their hopes into this couple – some even going so far as to come out to their parents because Clexa made them feel so secure and empowered – but then seeing it pan out in such a terrible way did a lot of damage. I don’t even think the writers are aware of the negative impact this has had on so many people; I myself found it difficult to think of anything else for days afterwards. And I know to some people this may be hard to understand – “it’s just a TV show” is a phrase favoured by many – but you have to see it from our perspective. We aren’t just mourning the loss of a loved fictional character; we’re mourning what she represents. Lexa’s death reinforces the age-old idea that queer people aren’t as important as their straight counterparts. That our stories aren’t as valid. That we are disposable and can be used for the shock factor or to gain viewers but that ultimately, our stories don’t matter. And that hurts.
And you know what the worst part is? The fact that one of the main people involved in the show tweeted about this turn of events and referred to it as a ‘twist ending’ that would ‘shock everyone’ – but none of us were shocked at all. None of us were surprised that a queer relationship had yet again ended in death and heartbreak – we were just devastated that it had happened on a show that had previously given us so much hope and had really made us believe that things would end differently for once.